I read a conversation book in which the answer for the question "Are you hungry?" was: "I feel like eating."

My question if this phrase of "feeling like" when talking about a normal situation in which a person is hungry, this is common in usage or is weird, because I never heard it in such context in the past before I came across these phrases in the mentioned book.


The simple answer is that it's perfectly normal English. As others have pointed out, "I feel like eating" isn't really a direct answer to the question, but indirect answers are the kind of thing you can do in any language. The more comfortable you get with English, the more you can play around with words to say pretty much anything:

Albert: Are you hungry?
Barney: I ate a few hours ago.

Albert: Are you hungry?
Barney: I could eat.

Albert: Are you hungry?
Barney: Am I ever not hungry?

And some on the lighter side:

Albert: Are you hungry?
Barney: Can't you hear my stomach singing the national anthem? (Ooh say can we eat ...)

Albert: Are you hungry?
Barney: I'm way past hungry. If we don't eat soon, I'm going to start looking up recipes for Albert Fricassee.

Albert: Are you hungry?
Barney: No, I'm Barney.


I can't remember ever seeing this exact combination, but I don't think that is what the book is trying to teach.

Learners may think that Yes/No questions must always be answered with "Yes", or "No". But if you actually see how people talk, they often don't respond like that. Instead they continue the conversation. So you could have

Are you hungry?
Well, I had a big breakfast.


Are you hungry?
I know. Let's go to MacDonalds!


Are you hungry?
Well, I feel like eating.

The learning point here is that a "Yes/No" question does not need to be answered by "Yes" or "No".

  • "I feel like eating" is a perfectly natural answer to the question, along the lines of the other possible answers you listed here. The point being that the question raises the topic of eating a meal, presumably together, and the answer is affirming that topic. Feb 21 '19 at 23:41
  • The answer can loosely be translated as "Yes and no. Yes, I feel like eating, but no, I don't need to eat."
    – Flater
    Feb 22 '19 at 8:23
  • @Flater That’s misleading and/or an idiosyncratic reading. More likely, the response “I feel like eating” should be parsed as “yes, I am hungry”. Feb 22 '19 at 15:03

It is not a direct answer to the question asked. Literally, it does not answer the question at all: for example, someone might prefer to eat rather than to continue an awkward conversation.

It is a fact, however, that people do answer questions indirectly.

Do you want to go to the movies?

Let's go see the re-run of Flash Dance!

Whether mimicking that realistic kind of conversational chaos is a good idea pedagogically is a different issue.

So someone might answer a question like "are you hungry" with a "let's get out the chips," but that is not a standard reply.

The basic structure being shown is of an indirect answer, which is common enough in informal speech

Are you X?



Yes, so Y.

The "Yes, so" is dropped.

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